Zero – Sum


Photo by Markus Spiske on


They buried the swimming pool

filled it with dirt, spread grass seed

next summer, a lawn

only a bit of fence and a pole

where once sparkled the water

of the biggest pool in Missouri


They buried the swimming pool

the whites dug their own

at social clubs, in backyards

she heard their kids splashing

playing Marco Polo


she had one day in the big water

one day of droplets beaded on her braids

one day with Marietta and Louise

in their new swimsuits,

laughing when Louise turned from white to pink


she heard the shouts

as her brother pulled her out

go home quick,

pushed her and Marietta over the fence

no black skin in blue water

They buried the swimming pool

Another Day


Photo by Harun Tan on


If speaking is belonging,

he belongs to silence

silence makes nests here,

on top of the china cabinet,

in serving bowls,

under the blanket chest

his chest rumbles without words

sentences begun drift into silence

words melt away like candle wax

consonants light his eyes

but silence owns him now



Photo by Tatiana Abramova on


Once I asked a falconer, “How come the red tail hawks hang out in the trees beside the Thruway?”

He didn’t know for sure.  “Maybe the passing cars scare up prey,” he guessed.  “Or maybe it’s warmer there.”

Today on the bus to New York City, I counted eleven red tails, another large raptor that might have been an owl, and one eagle.  On the return trip, I spotted three more red tails.  Two were a mating pair dancing circles in the sky.

It’s mating time now in early March.  Soon the leaves will obscure the hawks perched in the trees.  They’ll be hunting in earnest to feed fledglings.  Later, in mid-summer, we’ll be hearing the shrieks of the young just learning to fly, still demanding to be fed by their harried parents.

I love the hawks.  They lift my heart in awe that these birds continue their life cycles against the backdrop of shrinking habitat and pollution.

As I count hawks, the others on the bus do other things.  Every few miles, the guy behind startles me with a horrible honking cough.  A woman works on her laptop, while her nine-year-old daughter watches The Lady and the Tramp on her iPad.

The couple in front gets a lot of my speculation.  He is shaved bald, portly, with a scraggly beard and glasses.  The woman is Asian, appears younger.  He asks if she wants to listen to a podcast together.  She touches his cheek with fingernails painted gold.

Behind the girl and her mother, an African-American woman with amazing fingernails and enhanced eyelashes taps on her iPhone.  She’s wearing a baseball cap and sweatpants.  She looks kind.  When her outlet loses electricity, I invite her to sit beside me, but she declines.  I’m a little disappointed.

I imagine leaning across the aisle to invite the girl to count hawks with me.  “You can watch that Disney movie anytime,” I’d say to her, “but now’s the best time to count hawks.”

Turkey, 2023


Photo by Sanej Prasad Suwal on


How did I come to be me

and not that Turkish mother

seeking her child

under the rubble of cement and rebar

that was once their apartment?

Her building among the many

given amnesty by President Erdogan

in a sweeping gesture that bypassed

new building codes

and saved his government millions

See her there, scraping the chunks

with bleeding hands,

calling Azra!  Azra!

She doesn’t know the builder

or the contractor who

skimped on steel and stone

those two men just now

boarding a plane

out of the country

She doesn’t know where to look

where to live, who to blame

She wipes tears with torn fingers

Azra! Azra!

She doesn’t know me or how

I came to be

resting in a pillowed chair

awaiting my daughter’s visit